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This Is Orson Welles Paperback – March 22, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

In 1992, the first publication of This Is Orson Welles brought a priceless document to light. In the late '60s and early '70s, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich had conducted extensive interviews with Welles, but a number of circumstances--including the director's decision to compose an autobiography that he never got around to writing--kept the interviews out of the public eye. Edited and annotated by Jonathan Rosenbaum, these conversations give wonderful insights into Welles's craft and personality. He discusses his forays into acting, producing, and writing as well as directing, his confidences and insecurities, and his plans for film projects that were either never made or only partially completed. He also offers insights into the triumph of Citizen Kane and later masterpieces like The Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil, Othello, and Chimes at Midnight. His defense of his controversial adaptation of Kafka's The Trial is so fascinating that readers might want to rush out and rent the film.

While the book is worth owning just for this 322-page interview, it is also full of other material that is equally revealing. Rosenbaum presents a meticulous chronology of Welles's life, closely following his day-to-day activities from his birth in 1915 to his death in 1985. Anyone who thinks that Welles was an essentially lazy and profligate artist will be astonished at how hard he worked and how much he accomplished, even after the completion of Citizen Kane. Another treat found in the book is a detailed description--complete with rare photographic stills--of the original Magnificent Ambersons, Welles's impressive follow-up to Kane, which can now be seen only in a tragically truncated version.

This 1998 reissue of the volume contains a fond new introduction by Bogdanovich and another crucial piece of Welles minutia, excerpts from his 58-page memo to Universal Pictures about the editing of Touch of Evil. Forty years after its composition, the material in this memo has been used to create a restored "director's cut" of the film. With such grand material between two covers, This Is Orson Welles is the most informative and entertaining book available on one of the 20th century's greatest artists. --Raphael Shargel

From Publishers Weekly

This title is a potpourri of material by and about Welles (1915-1985), who wrote, directed and starred in the classic Citizen Kane , played a masterful Harry Lime in The Third Man and wrote, directed and acted in other films that have garnered a devoted if relatively small following. The bulk of the book consists of a series of interviews conducted by director/author Bogdanovich with Welles (interspersed with letters, memos and telegrams), as well as a chronology of Welles's life and career, a description of the scenes and dialogue cut by studio bosses from Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons and notes by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum (which often correct Welles's entertaining but sometimes inaccurate stories). Welles and Bogdanovich's conversation develops interestingly--like the conversation in Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre --and is sprinkled with discussions of Welles's radio career, movies and observations on film and other directors. For example, about Alfred Hitchcock, Welles says: "There's a certain icy calculation in a lot of Hitch's work that puts me off. He says he doesn't like actors, and sometimes it looks as though he doesn't like people ." Photos .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030680834X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306808340
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By DCromwell on January 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Some have criticized this book, which Welles felt was the definitive word on his films, by stating that it never deals with Orson's children or his failed marriages. That has nothing to do with what this book is about. If you are looking for a biography then look elsewhere. This is Orson Welles talking about his films and his life in film and what he was trying to do and say. When I finished reading I knew that for once Welles was getting the final word on his films and that what he said was honest. If you want to really know him as an artist I would strongly recommend reading this book. It's a very fast read even though it's crammed full of insights. As a bonus it also contains the shooting script for Magnificent Ambersons which would have exceeded Citizen Kane in its beauty if RKO hadn't cut it to shreds. I strongly recommend this book.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Interplanetary Funksmanship on August 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I commend to the book above, an interview with Peter Bogdanovich.
Although I'm not a huge fan of the latter's movies (with the exception of "Paper Moon," which I loved ever since it came out when I was eight, and fell in love with tomboy Tatum O'Neill forthrightly), I have begun reading about half of this book over the past few days, and find it better than my previous favourite, the Hitchcock/Truffaut book. Of course, much favoured above Wilder/Crowe, namely because of Crowe's incessant name dropping of "Jerry Maguire" and "Tom Cruise" every other irritating sentence, which prevented the reader from finding out what
Wilder had on *his* mind.
What impresses me about the Welles/Bogdanovich volume is the raucous sense of humour Welles brings to the conversation, always as lively and as larger-than-life as Welles was. Also, Bogdanovich has laced the book with pertinent interviews, articles, anecdotes that elucidate certain points of the text, as well as Welles' lines cut from "Magnificent Ambersons" and the long memorandum he wrote to Universal studio chiefs and cc'd to Chuck Heston, trying to save what I consider his masterwork,
"Touch of Evil" from falling prey to overzealous editing by indifferent studio hacks.
But most of all, I am touched that when all the world was dumping on Welles, when he was being derided as a has-been and a spendthrift, that up-and-coming director Bogdanovich gave him his friendship and accorded him the respect he was so shamefully denied. Even Pauline Kael couldn't resist savaging Welles, and she wrote a particularly nasty and libelous article that Welles didn't write any of the screenplay to "Citizen Kane.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
The first good thing about this book is that the interviews are by Peter Bogdanovich who is also a movie maker. He knows as much about movies as Orson and is not afraid to challenge him. There is a lot of source material, e.g. notes/letters/memos written by Orson and other people he worked with which give a very personal feeling to the overall book. Also the fact that the interviews were conducted over a number of years (we are lucky the book ever got published) lends a sense of intimacy.
The full version of the Magnificent Ambersons and a very extensive listing of all of Orson's works make this a must for any Orson fan and indeed for any serious fan of the movies.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jed Leland on January 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've just started going down the Welles "rabbit hole". I was very eager to receive this book, but was very disappointed in the quality of the printing.

It looked as if it had been printed with an old dot matrix printer that was running out of ink. The text is pixellated and soft, and as mentioned in other reviews, the pictures are nearly incomprehensible.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on September 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
As one who had just completed a viewing of Ciitzen Kane on DVD
(featuring the excellent audio commentary on the film by Roger Ebert & Rudy Behlmer) I turned to Frank Brady's excellent biography.This is Orson Welles completes my examination of this giant of film directorship. Over several years and in many locals the Falstaffian Welles shares his thoughts on film, his own movies and life with his devoted student Peter Bogdonovich
(himself a talented director best known for "The Last Picture Show'). If you want to know what Welles really thinks and believes this book is the Rosetta Stone for your investigation!
As Truffaut was able to discuss his life and films with Sir Alfred Hitchcock so does Peter B. do the same thing for Welles.
After all the reading and studying of Welles the man emerges as a titanic force of nature whose undisciplined genius is a wonder to behold. Any fan of Welles or Cinema should add this excellent book to your library. Well Recommended!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Chris Peters on April 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Of all books about Orson Welles, this one gives us the closest understanding of his genius. It contains a collection of interviews given to Welles by his good friend, Peter Pogdanovich. We are given a personal tour of Welles' thoughts and motivations behind some of his greatest or most notorious works, without the pompous guesswork of an independant biographer. At the same time, Pogdonavich acting as interviewer lends an air of honesty, as Welles isn't as free to reinvent history as he might have been if this were simply an autobiography. However, this interview format makes for a rough chronology, as conversations jump all over the place. The book does give some basic dates and highlights of Welles' life and careers, but the reader is still expected to know a little about Welles. You might want to suppliment this volumne with another Welles biography.
What entertained me the most was Welles' genius for story, which he not only used in such mastery on stage, radio, and film, but also in telling us of his own personal stories. I didn't realize the extent of Welles' accomplishments, which include some of theater and radio's finest moments, as well as film. Before making Citizen Kane at the ripe age of 26 (or 23?), Welles had a fuller, more distinguished life than most people manage to squeeze into a lifetime. Most importantly, this book can give a film fan some general insight to all those great "lost masterpieces", the films in which Welles often lost control over (which basically are the majority of his films). He explains his original visions and where the studios altered his work. Watching these films with this book as my guide, I noticed more of his touch and his genius than I would have without it. A great book and gift to filmmakers everywhere.
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